Live at Leeds Festival 2016 on Friday, 26th August 2016
I start my Leeds Festival 2016 at the BBC Introducing stage with Night Owls, a very noisy two piece playing their first major festival. Conveniently for them, that festival happens to be in their hometown, so the band have a great crowd from the off. They walk on stage and fire into their first tune without a word, offering two alternating guitar chords and some thumping drums, reminiscent of The Cribs, 'Be Safe' era. Singer/Drummer, Will Pollard has an intensity about his delivery on stage and, eyes wide, his voice cuts through the mid morning air. Thickened by the clever use of a bass amp and some pedals, Liam Waddell's guitar playing is gloriously off-kilter, and twists and turns unexpectedly.
Pollard introduces 'Why Me?' as the 'saddest song you'll ever hear', and shows the depth of the band's lyricism, proving that Night Owls are not just another grungey pop band hiding behind a fat guitar riff. Flying through their set, we reach last song 'Out Of My Head', and Pollard stands up from the kit circling the stage, mic in hand like a kind of slacker rock shark. Perhaps he's warding off the surfer vibes of Weezer that can be heard creeping into the final tune, before sitting back down at the kit for an onslaught of guitars and drums that see Night Owls leaving the stage to enthusiastic applause.
THE MAGIC GANG
Over to the Festival Republic Stage, I enter a very busy tent for Brighton boys, The Magic Gang. The band have had a whirlwind start to their career, from flying out to Jamaica to record their debut E.P, to touring the UK, relentlessly building their fanbase. The hard work has certainly paid off as they walk on stage, met with screams and cheers from the front, right to the back of the tent. They race through two E.P tracks without slowing down and arrive at 'Jasmine', an indie-pop gem, complete with chorus covered guitar chords, Beach Boys style harmonies and singalong pop hooks. The crowd do just that in the final third of the song, as a glorious break down to just drums and vocals sees the boys almost drowned out by their fans in full voice.
'Feeling Better' offers a moment of comic relief as the crowd start clapping on the offbeat, in and out of time throughout the intro's 3/4, waltz like drums and bass. The boys smile to themselves before starting the song, something which hasn't been rare throughout the set. The Magic Gang clearly love what they do, and aren't too cool to show it. When we reach the final tune, 'No Fun', the band draw out their intro for what feels like forever, teasing the audience with hints of a riff here and there, whipping them up into a frenzy before the pay off. In true Leeds Festival style the crowd chant along with the guitars, swaying backwards and forwards, some teetering precariously from the shoulders of friends. It's a really great atmosphere, and The Magic Gang are a really great festival band.
Last year I saw The Wombats headline the Festival Republic Stage. It felt like a real moment in the band's career with people pouring out of the sides of the tent, desperate to hear songs off their recently released, third album. It only seems fair that fans who couldn't make it under the canopy last year get a chance to stay dry, so the Liverpool based 3 piece are billed on this year's NME stage. The glittering synth pop of 'Give Me A Try' is up first, before the band count backwards through their album catalogue, with 'Jump Into The Fog' followed closely by 'Moving To New York', an anthemic, scratchy indie tune from the first record that helped launch them into the public eye. The Wombats have upped their stage production game from last year's performance, as Co2 cannons fire off in sync with strobe lights and cracks from the snare drum.
'Emoticons' slows the tempo half way through the set, with the crooning bent notes of Murph's guitar setting the scene for a slower, singalong moment. This really helps out the guys down the front as the frantic, full on nature of The Wombats sound has provided no let up from mosh pits and movement. Water is handed round before 'Tokyo (Vampires and Wolves)' picks up the pace again, no one enjoying themselves more than bass player Tord, who is a joy to watch as he bounces around the stage, frantically fighting to get back to his mic for each backing vocal. All three band members are excellent, vocally, which is a treat for the ears. They also take on two or three instruments each throughout the performance, at one point drummer, Dan playing his kit and a keyboard at the same time!
'Greek Tragedy' is a personal highlight, but the band choose to end their set with 'Let's Dance To Joy Division', their biggest hit to date. Murph leaves the stage and high fives the front row before getting back up to play an impromptu instrumental jam which seems almost anti climactic. It's loud and exciting in it's own right, but the audience seeps out of the sides of the tent, heading off to pastures new, taking the magical atmosphere with them. Facing inwards the band play their final chord and despite having far less applause to greet them they look extremely triumphant.
As the crowd settles in to the NME tent, a low rumble greets their ears. A familiar three rectangles, synonymous with The 1975's current stage production have been suspended above the stage, casting a dim light across the tent. The rumble gets slowly louder and the light follows suit, getting brighter and brighter before it's almost blinding. TV-like static rises up, covering the full wall behind the drum rise and four silhouettes enter the stage. Then, everything is pink. 'Love Me' is the opening track, and a brash, 80's synth line cascades around the tent. Front man Matty Healy looks almost possessed by his own music as his body contorts around the stage, paying homage to Talking Heads' David Byrne, spearheading the incredible visual spectacle created by lights and screens.
'Love me, if that's what you wanna do' is the lyric screamed at full volume by the droves of fans, and despite the tongue-in-cheek nature of the song's lyricism, you get the feeling that Healy has waited his entire life for this moment. All eyes on him.
The synths soar upwards through the octaves at the end of the first tune and come back down to earth at the start of 'Ugh'. The visuals change too, as an entire city scape is cast across the screens, with four pillars book-ending the drums and amps, looking like pretty convincing sky scrapers. This theme continues throughout the set, through 'Heart Out' into 'A Change Of Heart, and from 'She's American' into 'Loving Someone', each song has it's own unique visual aids to accompany the many genre's that the band borrowed from during their conception. The syncopated, angular edges of The 1975's music can be seen as well as heard. They attack all the senses in perfect harmony.
'Robbers' is up next, a clear fan favourite, procuring the loudest singing of the set on the lyric 'Now everybody's dead!'. A gospel choir joins the band on stage for 'If I Believe You' and 'Chocolate' but by far the most awaited song comes in the form of 'The Sound'. There is a change in tact and complex, busy songwriting is replaced by a four on the floor kick drum, a repeated pop chorus and four chords. There is a break in the slick pop production towards the final third, and Healy instructs the crowd that they are all going to jump, with the authority of a angry drill sergeant. On the count of four the lights go up and thousands of heads bob up and down in unison, for the first time in the evening the on stage visual is outdone by what is happening off stage.
The band come back on to play 'Sex' their break out hit. They reveal the final trick left up their sleeve, crashing through the 2 minute indie anthem and throwing their guitars down as if they were their main stage counterparts, Biffy Clyro. A rock and roll finish to one of the most polished, pristine sets you could ever see.
Grunge-Pop band hailing from Leeds, UK.